Monday, August 17, 2009

First Daze Back (Richmond, VA)

My friend Cheryl will be off to her full time teaching position in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in a few days. It's closer than where she spent the last year -- Korea -- but probably just as alien. (My apologies to any Oklahomaker who might be reading this...) Friday night is the goodbye party, and what a party it is!

Cheryl's friends are either contact improvisation dancers, writers, or both. They are artists and/or musicians. A yoga instructor and the esteemed, 90-year-old founder of the university's dance department are also in attendance.

Everyone is a good cook. Someone brought a salad, greens with figs, dotted with with pomegranate seeds. One of the guys baked a peach tart; a sign -- which I choose to ignore -- warns vegetarians that lard is in the crust. Blue corn bread. A huge bowl of blackberries. Figs, fresh from Robbie's garden. Potato salad. A rotisserie chicken, store bought. Crab meat with black beans, green peppers, garlic, onions, and green olives. A salad of tomatoes from somebody's yard, basil-scented, rich with summer. Meltingly warm chocolate-peanut butter cookies.

I am, for some reason unbeknownst even to me, telling the cookie baker about Finland: "World's highest or second highest suicide rate," I tell her. "That's because it's so damned dark most of the year. People are depressed. The men hardly talk. The national dance is the tango. It's the only country in the world where there's a Latin radio station. Latin - a dead language. That's perfect because they're suicidal -- Finnished." I harbor no ill feelings towards Finland or the Finns and am almost sure that some of what I am saying is true.

Male partners in orange shirts and pajama bottoms sit next to each other on the couch, and a female writer who looks familiar (as does almost everyone) watches from a nearby chair. Most of us are dancing in the living room. At one point, Cheryl dons a kimono and dives repeatedly onto one of those huge bouncy-balls favored by Pilates exercisers. A guy in a skirt, a man wearing a cowboy hat, an acquaintance who's a carpenter -- all seem to enter an altered state as they move and groove. We pseudo-tango, belly dance, improvise to the eclectic music selections. Host Robbie, a talented dancer, musician, and more, whips off his shirt, stands at the glass front door, gyrates, and says: "I hope my neighbors are watching!"

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